Fight for COVID-19 funds in Miami-Dade heats up among city leaders and county mayor

MIAMI (WSVN) - As Florida breaks another grim record for the fourth day in a row, city leaders have gone public with their frustrations over COVID-19 relief funds.

The number of COVID-19 deaths continues to rise by the hundreds each day and overall cases are rising by thousands throughout Florida.

In the meantime, city leaders are saying they just want to see federal funding being distributed fairly, but the county mayor is making that difficult.

Mayors of several cities in Miami-Dade on Thursday held a news conference asking Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to revisit the bargaining table or they may take matters to court with a class-action lawsuit.

“Mr. Gimenez, where have you been?” said Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez, “cause every time I see you, you’re in two places — when the governor comes here or you’re sending someone with a backdrop. I haven’t seen you in the streets of Hialeah, and I don’t know if you’ve seen him in any of your cities, so don’t tell me about leadership. Don’t tell me about leadership. Now is the time we need it, so stop acting like a child.”

“What we will not do is we will not sign a blank check to cities,” Gimenez previously said.

“All we have asked for from the very beginning of this is one thing and one thing alone: fairness,” said City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.

“They have plenty of time to do press conferences, but they won’t even answer our call to talk to us about what it is they’re doing and what they want to do,” said Gimenez.

“I’m going to tell you right now that that’s a lie,” said Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez.

Thanks to the CARES Act, Miami-Dade got more than $470 million from the federal government.

Since the 34 cities in Miami-Dade were not eligible to get any of that money directly, it is up to the county to figure out where it goes, and that is where the dispute lies.

In early July, the county told the cities that they would get $135 million, but earlier this week, they cut the amount to $30 million.

“That’s a number that was put in there when we thought that’s what the cities would need, but that number can move up, and the number can move down,” said Gimenez.

“What we should’ve gotten, based on population, is $275 million,” said Suarez.

The cities said the county has also already promised a big chunk of the relief funds to popular programs and non-profits, setting off a tense back and forth between the League of Cities and the county mayor.

“I hope Mayor Gimenez shows some leadership, and after today, does not get angry, doesn’t have a tantrum,” said Bermudez.

“You know, the insults are not going to get us anywhere,” said Gimenez. “I guess the next thing they’re going to do is they’re going to double-dog-dare me or something.”

The legal battle is brewing as Florida reported another 253 lives lost to COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the state’s death total to 6,586 residents.

The tropical storm forecast is affecting COVID-19 testing in Miami-Dade County as all county sites have been shut down temporarily.

Testing operations are set to resume some time next week.

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